Outlander on sale for $1.99 at Amazon

Outlander — the wildly popular New York Times bestseller that started a phenomenon and a popular show on STARZ is available on Kindle for just $1.99 at Amazon.

While vacationing with her husband in 1946, nurse Claire tumbles back in time to 1743 Scotland — where she encounters unimagined peril, unexpected love, and an impossible decision.

outlander

Little House is available for the Kindle

Last night I had a dream that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were finally available on Kindle, because that’s just the kind of nerd I am.

Well, I checked this morning, and lo and behold, they are. Here’s the whole set, but they can be purchased individually as well.

(Dave asked if I would please dream that we won a million dollars tonight. I’m working on it.)

Book review: The Pharos Gate by Nick Bantock

While this is technically Nick Bantock’s seventh entry in the Griffin & Sabine series, the story told within the beautiful pages of “The Pharos Gate” is in fact a much-desired epilogue to “The Golden Mean“, the third book. Here we finally see the last, most difficult steps Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem took to reach each other at the Pharos Gate in Alexandria. Set upon by forces determined to prevent their union, these two nevertheless become one in the most metaphysical sense. While we knew this had come to pass from the events of the second trilogy, nothing compares to experiencing their fusion first or, more accurately, secondhand.

Once again, Bantock’s physical novel itself is a work of art, in the styles of Griffin and Sabine both — two distinct yet harmonizing modalities. The sheer tactile joy of removing printed sheets filled with Griffin’s words and seeing once more Sabine’s distinctive brown script is enough to pull the reader right back into their story. While I am not sure this volume would stand cleanly on its own, it makes a treasured addition to an already fascinating tale. If you are unfamiliar with Griffin & Sabine, I recommend starting and the beginning and staying the course throughout their journey.

I received an advanced readers’ copy of this book for the purpose of review from LibraryThing.

guilty pleasures

Ross: Rachel claims this is her favorite movie.
Chandler: Dangerous Liaisons.
Ross: Correct. Her actual favorite movie is?
Joey: Weekend at Bernie’s.
(Friends, The One With the Embryos)

On my college application, I said my favorite song was the Commendatore scene from Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni. I do like it — it’s a compelling piece of music — but if I was being honest, in 1989, my actual favorite song was probably Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam’s “Head to Toe”.

Even sadder, “Head to Toe” came out in 1987. By 1989, my favorite song was probably something by Paula Abdul.

Sure, we all wish we had consistently high-brow tastes. And sometimes we do! I really do like Mozart, and my favorite book really is Anna Karenina. At the same time, when I want to wooby with a blanket and the cats, I’m usually reaching for something with a lower IQ requirement. So I share with you, with no small amount of shame, my guilty pleasures.

Movies

Selena (1997): The true story of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart topping albums on the Latin music charts. This one stars Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos (if Olmos is in it it can’t be all bad!) and I could watch it FOREVER. I’m nearly physically incapable of changing the channel if it’s on, despite, yes, owning a copy as well. BIDI BIDI BOM BOM.

The Twilight Series, but especially Eclipse. Look, these movies are crap. There’s no two ways about it. I own them all, though. There’s no good explanation. The plots are trite, the dialogue is mediocre at best. I’m frequently rooting for the bad vampires. Mostly the wolves. The soundtracks are surprisingly good (Iron & Wine, for crying out loud!) and there are some neat visuals. I find Kristen Stewart oddly mesmerizing. And Taylor Lautner’s abs are distracting. As Edward says:

Edward himself is singularly unappealing to me (what happened to that handsome young lad in Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire?). And they’re both young enough to be my kids, so there’s that. (Well, Pattinson only if I started REALLY young.)

The Devil’s Advocate (1997). This one is my husband’s fault. It’s his guilty pleasure movie, one he has a supernatural ability to find airing on TBS at any given time. Al Pacino gives the worst performance of his career (did he lose a bet?) and Keanu Reeves makes you wish he was playing a robot in a plot full of holes you can drive a semi through, while Charlize Theron changes her hairstyle and hopes you forget she was even in this piece of dreck.

Just about any dance movie, ever. Favorites include Center Stage, Strictly Ballroom, Dirty Dancing, Footloose, All the Step Up movies (all five!), Shall We Dance, White Nights, Mad Hot Ballroom, Coyote Ugly, Billy Elliot, Singin’ in the Rain, and Save the Last Dance. If there’s dancing anywhere in it, I’ll watch it. Repeatedly. Starting with when it premieres in the theater. Me and a lot of teenagers, usually. I’m there.

Books

You know, I don’t feel guilty about these. They’re great books. It’s just the sheer number of times I’ve read them that borders on embarrassing.

Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay: I once started this book at a favorite scene somewhere near the midway point, finished, went back to the beginning, and read the entire book through again, to the end.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. The ones she actually wrote, not the ones her son has written since she died. (No offense, Todd.) I think what lies beneath this obsession is a deeply-rooted desire to able to communicate telepathically with my cats, along with the knowledge that we would be bonded for life. On the other hand, sometimes I think their thoughts might not be particularly flattering, especially on the days they haven’t had any Fancy Feast.

The Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still have the same yellow paperback set I had as a child. By the Banks of Plum Creek! By the Shores of Silver Lake! Nellie Olsen. Almanzo. Nearly freezing and starving to death in The Long Winter. Pa and his fiddle. Good times!

Having said that, there are a few books that only keep from embarrassing me out of an admiration for the written word in all forms. Judith Krantz’ Princess Daisy. Flowers in the Attic. Jean Auel’s books, especially the latter ones like The Plains of Passion — I mean, Passage. Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches saga. Janet Dailey’s Calder books. And oh, The Da Vinci Code. I hang my head in literary shame.

Songs

The Spice Girls, Wannabe. They sold, like, a zillion copies of that CD, but no one ever, ever admits to having owned it.

Britney Spears, Womanizer. I’ve got an excuse for this one. It was my favorite routine on the Wii “Just Dance” exercise program. I mean, with lyrics like “Womanizer, woman-womanizer, You’re a womanizer, Oh, womanizer, oh, You’re a womanizer, baby”, what’s not to like, right? But it does make a good workout song.

Carly Rae Jepson, Call Me Maybe. Every now and then a song is so annoying you end up liking it, which doesn’t make sense but it’s still true. I still feel like this song got published on a dare, but if so, it paid off.

The Backstreet Boys, As Long As You Love Me. Okay, I’ve got no defense for BSB. It’s not like they can consider themselves pseudo-cool like NSYNC for bringing us Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, and Joey Fatone (hey, he was good in My Big Fat Greek Wedding!). I can’t name a single other song of theirs, but I like this one. It’s nice!

Lastly, and this I say with no shame whatsoever, Sonny & Cher’s I Got You, Babe. You know, this song had a bad rap for a long time, but I don’t know why. It was sung by two kids who were nuts about each other, and stayed good friends for the rest of their lives, even after their marriage ended. I had this song played at my wedding and it’s one of my favorite memories of the whole night. So I’ll leave you with a very early performance, from 1965:

A new (for real!) Harry Potter book is coming — Harry Potter play script of “the eighth story” tops book charts

curschild
I haven’t been paying too much attention to the upcoming London production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — I think I wasn’t quite sure it was going to be considered canon, or if, like the upcoming movie version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it wouldn’t feature any familiar faces.

It will, however — Harry is back in a new story, that now will be released in script form (both hardcover and Kindle) at midnight after the play’s opening night, July 31, 2016. And now I’m all excited.

The upcoming book, which will reproduce the script from the forthcoming play by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, shifts the action of the Harry Potter stories to 19 years after the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry is now “an overworked employee of the ministry of magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children”, grappling “with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs”.

Source: Harry Potter play script hits No 1 on book charts a day after announcement of ‘eighth story’ | Books | The Guardian

Amazon’s Kindle will make it easier to find a good book

Sounds like a good update — I’m always trying to find the next book — or the next dozen books — I want to read. And the Kindle home screen could use some personalization options.

“Kindle owners will find browsing, buying and sharing books easier when a software update arrives this month, according to Amazon. An Amazon page details the features and refinements coming to Kindle e-book readers. The update will enable you to personalize the home screen, for example, so your most recent books appear at the upper left of the screen. All of your books can be retrieved by clicking on My Library. A new section dubbed “My Reading Lists” shows all the books on your wish list as well as any samples you’ve downloaded. The bottom of the home screen will change to show you recommendations, best-selling titles and books that your Goodreads friends are reading.”

An upcoming update to Kindle e-book readers promises a faster way to check your existing library and track down your next read.

(Source: Amazon Kindle wants to ease your hunt for a good book)

The article goes on to talk about why sales of ebooks and Kindles have lagged lately, but they completely miss what I’m sure is the actual reason: the quick jump in ebook prices that happened last year, which may or may not have been a result of Amazon being forced to settle their dispute with major publishing houses.

I think consumers lost out on that one, because whereas I used to be able to purchase ebooks at a reasonable rate, now I’m being asked, often, to pay more for the electronic version than for the paperback copy. Grumble. Maybe with newer books I can understand it, but $8.99 for an old scifi novel published in 1987, that I already own in paperback, or could buy as such for $5.99? No thanks.

2015 in books

book street cat named bobI read 43 books this year, which is a bit more than last year (but still a ways off my all-time 2012 high of 54).

On the whole, most were decent, some were bad, and not very many stood out as exceptional. The best book I read was James Bowen’s “A Street Cat Named Bob“; Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” was a close second.

So with no further ado, 2015’s list, with comments where warranted and links where recommended:

 

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly : Matt McCarthy
At the Water’s Edge : Sara Gruen (Not very good. I gave it a bad review and the author’s Twitter account retweeted it. Odd.)
I Am Number Four : Pittacus Lore
The Girl On the Train : Paula Hawkins (I think everyone read this last year. I thought it was just okay)
Stolen Innocence : Elissa Wall
The Look of Love : Sarah Jio
Station Eleven : Emily St. John Mandel (It reminded me of The Stand meets The Walking Dead, but with no zombies. I loved the circular lack of resolution.)
A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope On the Streets : James Bowen (This story hits every part of my little Grinchy heart that treasures the way animals and humans can share a bond like no other. The true tale of how James saved Bob, but Bob saved James even more.)
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances : Neil Gaiman (This was a big disappointment for me. If it wasn’t for the Shadow story, it would have been a total loss.)
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride : Cary Elwes and Joe Layden (All sorts of fun stories from the set, including ones about the unforgettable Andre the Giant and the passing of gas.)
Wreckage : Emily Bleeker
The Art Forger : Barbara A. Shapiro
The Beautiful Bureaucrat : Helen Phillips
Hidden : Catherine McKenzie
The Memory Box : Eva Lesko Natiello
Reconstructing Amelia : Kimberly McCreight (Tom, I think you recommended this one to me. It was pretty interesting, and I didn’t figure out what had really happened until the end.)
Red Queen : Victoria Aveyard
The Bridesmaids: True Tales of Love, Envy, Loyalty… and Terrible Dresses : Eimear Lynch
The Winter Witch : Paula Brackston
The World According to Bob: The Further Adventures of One Man and His Street-Wise Cat : James Bowen (See above. I love reading about Bob. There’s a movie in the works!)
The Buried Giant : Kazuo Ishiguro
The Complete Walt Disney World Fun Finds & Hidden Mickeys : Julie & Mike Neal
Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip – Confessions of a Cynical Waiter : Steve Dublanica
Armada : Ernest Cline (Not bad. Just not as good as Ready Player One. But then again, what is?)
Six Months Later : Natalie D. Richards
It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History : Jennifer Wright
The Good Girl : Mary Kubica
In the Unlikely Event : Judy Blume (This was a great bit of fiction. Pick it up to take with you on vacation, though maybe not via plane.)
We Were Liars : E. Lockhart
The Orchid House : Lucinda Riley
Spending the Holidays With People I Want to Punch In The Throat : Jen Mann (Disappointingly, she doesn’t *really* want to punch any of the people in this book in the throat, so it might as well have been titled “Spending the Holidays With My Family”.)
The Martian : Andy Weir (Read the book. Didn’t bother with the movie.)
The Lowland : Jhumpa Lahiri (Love this author and have read every single thing she’s written. This did not disappoint.)
Helen of Sparta : Amalia Carosella (Sort of the “Mists of Avalon” take on the Trojan War.)
Oh Myyy! – There Goes the Internet : George Takei
The Rest of Us Just Live Here : Patrick Ness (Fun for anyone who’s ever watched Buffy.)
A Discovery of Witches : Deborah Harkness (Okay, so these books are basically The Outlander meets Twilight. I’m not claiming they’re fine literature or anything. But page-tuners. The first one was 800 or 900 pages long and I read it in a week.)
Shadow of Night : Deborah Harkness
The Sandman Overture : Neil Gaiman
First Frost : Sarah Addison Allen
Eleanor : Jason Gurley (advanced reader copy — watch for this one when it comes out in 2016)
Shoeless Joe : W.P. Kinsella
The Good Neighbor : Carol Ann Morris